A Day in the Life (Bodleian Law Library)

Looking down on the law library's main reading room - there are rows of large wooden desks, with bookshelves in the background. This photo was taken earlier in the year, so some areas are blocked off with red and white tape due to Covid restrictions.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ve probably gathered by now that there are two Law trainees. Law is a large library, with a team working in three subsections: Academic Services (where Josie is based), Information Resources (where Jess is based), and Official Papers (technically a separate collection housed within the library, with a small team of its own). Although we share some tasks and both spend time out on the enquiry desk, there are some general differences between the two positions – the IR trainee is generally surrounded by various stages of book processing, while the AS trainee shares an office with the librarians responsible for delivering the LRMSP, an undergraduate legal research course. With that in mind, here are two days in the life at the LawBod!


Josie: I arrive at the library and make my way up to my office on the second floor, opening any windows I pass along the way. Depending on who’s already here, there may be some reshelving to do as well – although restrictions have eased a lot since the start of our traineeship, we still have some variable working patterns going on, so the division of opening-up duties changes from day to day.

Jess: I pack my things away in my locker, hanging up my coat and heading out to open some of the Law Library’s many windows. I keep an eye out for any shelving before heading up (or down) to the Information Resources office.


Josie: The first thing I do after catching up on emails and messages is check the scan request queues. Although I’m not involved in triaging requests for the library, I do a lot of the scanning, so it’s useful to know if much will come my way later in the day. Beyond this point, the shape of my day is largely determined by my fluctuating ability to sit still and focus on spreadsheets. I really appreciate being able to manage my own time here – I work on a variety of long-term projects, so once I’ve accounted for things like meetings and desk shifts, I can play it by ear and go wherever I’ll be most productive for the next while.

Jess: I clear any new emails and Teams messages, checking to see how much is on each of the shelves in the WIP (work-in-progress) room I have responsibility for, as well as the enquiry desk rota, before drawing up a schedule of tasks for the day.


Josie: I’m currently working through a trolley of jurisprudence books, part of our ongoing reclassification project. This is a good task to fill an hour or so, as there’s only so much legal philosophy I can google or translate my way through before everything starts turning to word soup.

Jess: Schedule in hand, I start the day by gathering up any books ready for labelling on the designated shelf. We have two different labels types, depending on whether a book is likely to be reclassified in the somewhat near future (more on that later) or not. I fill in the shelfmarks for the new books before printing two sheets of labels. I affix each new label to the relevant spine or the front cover if a shelfmark is particularly long (looking at you EuroComm) or a book is particularly short. Any shelfmark we expect to be correct for some time has a label protector placed over it to keep it legible for years of readers to come. These then go on yet another shelf where someone from Academic Services checks them in order to catch the (hopefully occasional) errors that seep in despite my best efforts. They are then shelved for our readers to find.


Josie: Every Monday the AS staff have a short meeting over Teams, catching everyone up on the past week’s activities and giving a heads-up for any upcoming absences or unusual occurrences. I take minutes for these and upload them to the Teams channel shortly afterwards. Once a month, I go straight from this to taking minutes for the Bodleian’s ORLO Operations Group meeting, which lasts through to lunchtime and involves many more acronyms. (ORLO = Oxford Reading Lists Online, interactive reading lists which link directly to access points for online resources). 

Jess: We usually have the Law Library staff meeting on a Thursday, where Helen Garner – the fabled Law Librarian – updates us on all the relevant changes and goings-on in both our own library and the Bodleian at large. This year, there has been plenty of information about the various changing COVID procedures and restrictions as well as questions around journals, online resources, and more. 


Josie: I keep working on the jurisprudence books for now, as I’ll be going over my suggested new shelf marks with the IR librarian tomorrow. However, being part of AS means that it’s not unusual for someone to drop by the office or message me on Teams with a quick job to do instead – getting ahead on admin for next term’s LRMSP sessions, fixing glitchy columns in the tea room budget spreadsheet, and testing out new hiring or induction materials are all part of a day’s work.

Jess: A quick stop for tea and a book. At present, I’m (very happily) weighed down with the tome that is Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s The Mirror of Beauty


The Bookeye scanner and a computer sit on a wooden desk. There is a large journal resting on the scanner, and a scanned image on the computer screen.
The Bookeye scanner (and an unusually large journal)

Josie: There are few scan requests ready and waiting, so I make a note of the details and go searching for books. Most issues get ironed out by the triage team, but a little detective work is occasionally needed – I once spent most of a desk shift using an incomplete citation to track down a Scottish law report from 1807!

We’re lucky to have a high-tech Bookeye scanner, which can split double pages, crop messy edges, and automatically makes files OCR accessible. Once the scans are done, I use a PDF editor to double-check for missing pages and reduce the file size, then fill in our record of completed scans and add the file to our repository in case it’s requested again. When the same scan is requested by multiple people, it’s often related to a particular course, so it’s useful to already have a good-quality scan that can be sent out again or potentially go straight onto ORLO or LB4S (LawBod 4 Students – more on that later).

Jess: I take an hour to complete various smaller tasks that need managing around the office. I stamp, add security, and label any books that have arrived via purchase or donation – often much smaller than our copyright deliveries. I print some new bookplates for our generous series of donations from the Supreme Court of Korea, which have their own unique design and are possibly the only thing I print in colour. I check up on the status of books that have not arrived from previous copyright deliveries, making sure they are still on their way to us and haven’t ended up at the BSF. I fix any incorrect labels, and make new ones for books that have been spotted with theirs peeled off. 


Josie: I’ll be on desk at one, so – depending on how long the scans take, and how many times the PDF editor crashes in the process I aim to take my lunch at around noon. It’s easy to spend the whole day inside, so I’m making more of an effort to take my book and lunch outside as the weather improves.

Jess: Since Thursday is Josie’s day at the SBS, I gather up the day’s scan requests so far to avoid them returning to a large stack.


Josie: Time for my desk shift! Most enquiries tend to be about navigating the library, although as we’re currently in a vacation period, the number of students in search of PCAS machines and reading list materials has somewhat decreased. I give a quick summary of the library’s layout to a visiting researcher, direct someone asking about Ted Hughes across the building to the English Faculty Library, and take another reader down to the ground floor to help them find a report in the Official Papers collection.

Jess: Thursday afternoons often hold cataloguing lessons. I’m learning to create basic records for a variety of items, known as Minimal Level Records. These records contain key information about the item’s title, author, publisher etc., allowing it to be located by any reader looking specifically for that item, or items by that author, but miss a lot of the detail in a full record (such as Library of Congress subjects) that are helpful for resource discovery when researching. However, they are an ideal place to start learning to catalogue! I create new records for a small stack of Official Papers material; going through the first few record creations in detail with Tanya before leaving me to finish the rest of the stack without supervision to check for errors later (is this homework?). 


Josie: Between enquiries, my usual desk task is an LB4S checking project. Since it’s important that law students learn to find their own resources, a lot of the undergraduate courses don’t get ORLO lists. However, we still need a way to supply digitised versions of required readings that aren’t widely accessible (the Law Quarterly Review, for example, has a 35-year gap in its online provision), so there’s a designated LB4S section on each course’s Canvas site. Since it’s been a chaotic couple of years for online resource provision, my job is to work through each course and make sure that everything is in order on the copyright side of things, as well as generally tidying up the pages and checking for any resources that have become available online since being uploaded.

A kickstool and trolley filled with books sits between aisles of rolling shelving. Some of the shelves are full, some are empty.
Moving books in the rolling stacks

Jess: A late lunch today, as I find that keeps my energy up for my evening shift. I occasionally drop by the EFL, just a staircase away, in order to exchange my poetry reads. 


Josie: After desk, I take a tea break and check the post room for blue BSF crates before deciding how to spend the afternoon. It’s been a few days since I got round to one of my other ongoing tasks, so I find an empty trolley on the ground floor and start moving some books. As a legal deposit library, we keep all the up-to-date publications on the upper floors, but also hoard superseded editions and early journals down in the rolling stacks. Inevitably, there are some overcrowding issues, so we’re working through a several-step plan to get what space we have into a more useful location. There’s something very satisfying about closing up the shelf space left for a report series we haven’t received in hard copy since the mid-2010s, but metal shelving is unforgiving of clumsiness – the clanging occasionally attracts a lost reader.

A trolley full of new Law books. Each book has a different-coloured paper slip inserted.
VBD books, ready to be processed

Jess: Usually by this point of the day, the post has arrived! The ‘Virtual Book Display’ is a list of all the legal deposit books the Bodleian has received that week, and Felicity, head of all things in Information Resources, selects the law-relevant titles that then arrive on a Thursday. I record which ones have arrived using a traffic light system on my spreadsheet, having a weekly check of any missing titles to see if they have found their way to another library or the BSF – and sometimes the shelves! Each book receives stamps and security measures before being placed on the designated VBD shelf where the library’s cataloguers – Tanya and Rebecca – pick them up. Whilst the size of this delivery varies week-on-week, it’s usually sizeable – I often process several hundred books a term!


Josie: Law books tend to be heavy, so I’m careful to leave off the book moving before overdoing it. For the last part of the day, I head back to the office and clear up any leftover tasks – shelving in the main reading room, another scan or two, or working on a blog post like this one.

Jess: Break time! I devour a quick chapter of my book and a fortifying snack


Jess: I tie up any loose ends at my desk before prepping my trolley for my evening desk shift.


Josie: Once a week I stay on for an evening shift, but not today! I finish off whatever I’m currently working on, make a quick note of anything I ought to prioritise tomorrow, then sign off for the day and head home.

Jess: Late shifts are shared out between members of library staff, and Thursday is my anointed day. There are often fewer reader enquiries at this hour, so I head to the Jurisprudence section to pick up the thirty-two titles on my sheet. My temporary stealing of books from the shelves is part of the MOYS reclassification project – the library is changing over from its old shelfmark style to a new one (MOYS, hence the name) which is a Library of Congress style system designed specifically for law books. I check over tables of contents, introductions, and skim over a few chapters to get a sense of which shelfmark is right, going outside of jurisprudence where neededand if a book is particularly opaque, I’ll dig further. The library has many foreign language holdings, so I also have a bookstand at the ready to use DeepL to supplement my language skills –French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are most common, with some surprises! I keep a running Word document with various keywords in an attempt to improve my language skills and I like to think I am starting to get a foothold in my incredibly specific vocabulary – I cannot tell you what the verb for ‘to eat’ is in German, but I can recognise the word for ‘constitution’ about 50% of the time…


Jess: Time to go home! As my longest day of the week, I usually reward myself with pizza – and get my hours back in exchange by way of an early 3PM finish on Tuesdays.

A page of of circular test stamps, with the words 'Bodleian Law Library', various dates from September 2021, and a letter P for Purchased Copy in the centre,


A Day in the Life: Ella and Naomi in the Law Library  

Hello! We have now been in our roles for over two months and thought it would be a good time to share what a typical working day might look like for us both. Aside from daily desk duties and the Wednesday afternoon training sessions that are a brilliant feature of the graduate trainee scheme, we largely have the freedom to structure our days as we please. While no two days are typically identical, this ‘A Day in the Life’ timetable offers a flavour of how we organise our time…


A door leading to the Information Resources office
The mysterious IR office…


Naomi: Arrive at the library, put things away in locker and walk up to the Information Resources (IR) office where my desk is.

Ella: Arrive at the library, make a cup of tea, get myself sorted and head upstairs to log in.



N: Sign into Microsoft Teams, check emails, write a to-do list for the day.

E: Log in to the computer, sign in on Teams and check emails for anything urgent. I’ll also check for Law Bod 4 Students (LB4S) requests at this point – LB4S is an online site available for law students with extra resources, and they can submit requests for material that they can’t find online to be added to it. If any requests have been submitted, I make a note to deal with the request later that morning.



N: Shelving books left on the trolleys throughout the library overnight and opening windows.

E: Whizz round the library opening windows (very important at present – helps ventilate, which limits the spread of coronavirus) and shelving books from the day before.



N: Morning desk duty. The library opens to readers at 09:30. Sitting at the Enquiry Desk involves signing in readers who have booked seats through the online Space Finder system, answering readers’ enquiries (e.g. explaining where certain books are located, lending power banks, giving directions to other parts of the St. Cross building), and working on other tasks that can be done at a computer, such as building ORLO reading lists (or writing this blog post!).

GIF of Ella demonstrating the mobile shelving unit
Using the mobile shelving

E: I carry on dealing with LB4S requests, double-checking SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and ORLO (Oxford Reading Lists Online) to see if the material is available online and they’ve just not spotted it. If it isn’t, I email our Research Support Librarian, who has to go through various copyright checks to see if we can make the material available on LB4S. (She also sometimes finds resources I’ve not been able to, as she has more experience dealing with tricky legal databases!)

I’ll also do a bit of scanning for Scan and Deliver, the Bodleian scanning service. I’ll then edit them and send them through to readers.



N: Quick socially-distanced tea break in the staff room with Ella… potentially a trip to buy a coffee. Then a brief session stamping Official Papers.

E: Tea Break! An essential part of the morning. Naomi and I occasionally visit The Missing Bean Café in the building (great coffee, friendly barista, sweet treats always look delicious too) but mostly have tea and a socially-distanced natter about our mornings (Bake Off is also a popular topic of discussion – I have strong views about this year’s hosting choices). Then I’ll do some book processing – stamping and tattling if Naomi wants help, or shelving serials. I might also spend some time stamping Official Papers (OP) and attempt to shelve some OP documents (a daunting task as shelf marks can be exceptionally complex). This will usually take me through until lunch.


Rows of shelving which are part of the Official Papers collection
The Official Papers collection


N: Book processing tasks such as counting, stamping, labelling and updating spreadsheets to record deliveries of purchased and legal deposit books. We are currently making headway with processing the many books which could not be delivered during the first lockdown, seeing as the Law Library was closed.



N: Lunch break. Ella and I eat together in the staff room and then go for a walk around the beautiful University Parks – we love how close they are to the library.

E: You’ll find Naomi and me in the staff room at lunchtime. Sadly, we don’t get a free lunch – the trainees at the college libraries do, and from what I’ve heard the food is delicious, and there’s usually dessert. Although our kitchen boasts a hot water tap, two microwaves and numerous coffee machines, so…



N: Time to scan some book chapters and journals for the Scan and Deliver service. After scanning them to a memory stick, I edit the PDFs at my desk and email them to readers.

E:  This hour might be spent carrying on with the tasks above, digitising a resource for ORLO, updating an ORLO list or doing some of the other tasks that pop up on an irregular basis. I also help out with the LRMSP (Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme) which is a module to help undergrads get to grips with finding legal resources and using them in a moot 1 . In the past couple of months it has involved looking over some students’ submissions and figuring out strategies for moving parts of the course online, and we’re currently preparing for online moots, which I might get to help clerk at.



Naomi stands at a PCAS machine scanning a book
Doing some scanning

N: I shelve some new serials. These can often be a little trickier to find and shelve correctly than books.

E: Desk duty until 17:00. Naomi has described the main tasks we do while at the enquiry desk. In the background, I’ll be updating the Spanish and Latin American Law LibGuides – online guides to the Bodleian Law Library’s resources.



 N: Another tea break! Afterwards, I unpack some book deliveries in the post room and fill a trolley to take back to the office. The rest of the afternoon is spent making a start with processing them.



N: Tidy things away, say goodbye on Teams, close any open windows in the office, and go down to the staff room.

E: Time to pack up and head home!



1. Moot = a ‘court competition [which] simulates a court hearing (usually an appeal against a final decision), in which participants analyse a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral argument’ according to the Oxford Law Faculty.

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 8

Before posting the 8th ‘Day in the Life’ of an Oxford Library Trainee, I think it would be useful to introduce myself, as I have failed to do this so far… I’m Francesca, and I am the Academic Services trainee at the Law Library. I graduated from the University of Hull in 2009 with a BA in English Literature, and completed an MA at the University of Reading in 2010, before spending a couple of years experiencing the delights of office admin. Finally, I decided to attempt to pursue a career in Information Services and Librarianship, and here I am!  Having been working at the Law Library for five months now (times flies!) I know my way around and seemingly manage to undertake my role without asking too many questions! As it is Wednesday, and we have training this afternoon (today’s session is ‘Effective Training Sessions: pitch , plan , present!’), I have based this post on a fairly ‘typical’ day from two weeks ago, that highlights best what I do…

08:45-11:00: Desk Duty

Image from http://www.law.ox.ac.uk/bodleian_law_library.php

Two mornings every fortnight (Thursday and Friday), it is my turn to open up and work on the Reserve Desk first, where the high-usage reading list material is kept and scanned out to readers for use in the library for  up to one day. Today is one of those days, so my first task when I arrive is to go round unlocking the photocopy room, the two computer rooms,and the seminar room, as well as switching on the enquiry desk computers and taking a reader count  from the exit gate for the previous day. I also check desks for left books and scan in any reserve books from the previous evening that were handed in at the last minute, and in turn respond to any queries about overdue noties received for these. I then check my emails and settle in to my desk shift . Like Kat, they are my favourite part of the job. I enjoy interacting with the readers and helping them with their enquiries. I am always happy to succeed in answering their questions as quickly and efficiently as possible. Readers seems particularly grateful when there is success in resolving issues with the photocopiers! Today, another regular query comes up. A reader wants to consult a book signed out to another reader on a research desk. This has to be located using Aleph, taken from the research desk and given a secondary consultation slip before being given to the reader. They must return the book to the Reserve desk for us to put back on the research desk when they have finished with it. I also get on with some loose-leaf filing, explained in Kat’s earlier post.

11:00am-11:20am: Break

11:20am – 12:00pm: Document delivery

One of my main tasks as the Academic Services trainee is to process and send document delivery requests to law firms for consultation or use in judicial proceedings, or to private individuals for research. The number of these requests varies , but on average there are probably 2-3 requests per week, mainly from law firms wanting the copy for commercial use. The requests are for copies of law cases, journal articles or book chapters. Today, I received a request from a law firm for a copy of  a journal article. I check  that we have it, and scan the copy. Back at my desk, I tidy the document so that it looks professional, and process the order using our Access database, ensuring that I assign the correct usage (e.g. Commercial UK, Commercial EU, Private Study or Judicial Proceedings), and therefore the correct charge. The details of the person/company being sent to, and the details of the item scanned, must be detailed accurately. I then create the invoice for the request, and send this along with the copy and a credit card form. These requests are usually processed as quickly as possible, and it is always satisfying when you receive thanks from a grateful researcher for getting the copy to them speedily ! Today’s request is simple and straightforward, but there are often copyright restrictions and other issues to consider before sending the copy.

12:00pm-1:00pm – New book shelving and moving books to the secondary collection

After Kat has labelled new books in Information Resources, they are brought down to the shelves in Academic Services for shelving. There can be only ten at a time, or sometimes twenty to thrity, depending on the day’s/week’s intake. Shelving books sounds simple enough, but there are certain collections in the library that are somewhat lacking in growth space! Shelving one new book can sometimes involve moving four or more shelves of books along to fit a new one in, as was the case today in a sequence in the library’s International Law collection. It is certainly good exercise moving them all about, and going around the four floors of the library to shelve them! Today, many of the new books are also new editions that supersede ones already on the shelf. These are easier to shelve, as I remove the old one and replace it. The old editions that I have gathered whilst shelving the new books are marked with a red x. I then take them to the 1st floor and shelve them in the secondary collection. (Today, I do this immediately; sometimes I leave it for another time if I need a sit down by this point!)

1:00pm- 2:00pm : Lunch

2:00pm-2:45pm: Inter-Library Loans claims

Another of my tasks in Academic Services is to process Inter-Library Loans claims to the British Library for Inter-Library Loans that we have provided to UK institutions. I do this once or twice a month. Today, there are twenty one to claim since just before Christmas. I complete and submit the form on the British Library website, detailing the British Library account number for the claim, the institution’s request number, and the cost. I then send the details of the request to Accounts. I record the date on which the claim was submitted in the Excel database, and print and file the documents in the claims folder. Admittedly, this is not the most exciting part of my job, but someone’s got to do it!

2:45pm -3 :05pm – Bodley Box

Like Sophie, one of my tasks at the Library is receiving and returning the books from the Book Storage Facility. We have two deliveries a day, at approximately 9:30am and 3:30pm (although the latter often arrives earlier – I suspect that it has been there a while today!) I do two morning deliveries and two afternoon deliveries per week. In the morning, I collect all the books that come up on the returns list from the shelves next to the Reserve Desk, research desks or carrels, and return them to the boxes in the packing room, before bringing the new ones upstairs and scanning  them in. I then put them in the correct place depending on the reader. The number of books varies, but there is never usually more than a box of books  – certainly not the number at the main Bodleian! This afternoon, there are only six books to scan in and put out in the reading room.

3:05pm -4:00pm – Foreign Dissertations Database

Finding myself with a quieter moment without a pressing task, I spend some time working on the Foreign Dissertations Database, where my (slightly average) French ‘A’ Level is put to minor use at last! I usually work on this when I have nothing urgent to complete. It involves recording handwritten card catalogues of foreign law dissertations from the early 20th century into a searchable Access database, for which there is a link on the Law Library website. There are approximately 40,00o to add, and since the project was started about 20,000 have been recorded – half way there! I input French language dissertations (although I do find the odd rogue  Dutch one which makes little sense to me!) but deciphering the handwriting can sometimes be tricky! I enjoy this task as it makes my brain try and recall the French it has learnt, and it is a worthwhile project to make a record of these documents that is searchable, so that they might be used. I manage to input twenty new records.

4:00pm – 5:00pm – Odds and Ends

I spend the last part of the day checking my emails and adding a couple of things to my calendar for next week, including our fortnightly Academic Services meeting, other team meetings, my desk duties, and the next couple of week’s training sessions. I spy a few final new books to shelve before hometime!

I hope that this post has given some insight into my role at the Law Library, and this day seemed to have an element of most of the things that I do (although don’t be fooled by the day’s steady pace – sometimes things happen all at once, or a document delivery request appears at 4:45pm!) Other projects that I am involved in include helping with the reclassification of the USA collection that Kat talked about, and working on projects with the Web Team and the Communications Team.

Emily Sargeant – Law Library

Image taken from http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/law/

Hi, I’m Emily and I’m one of the two trainees (and one of the two Emilys!) at the Bodleian Law Library. I graduated from York in July, having studied English Literature with a little Spanish. I first looked into librarianship as a career last year, and applied for as many traineeships as possible before I was lucky enough to be accepted to the Bodleian. In the meantime I tried to gain as much library work experience as I could, and ended up working as a Digitisation Assistant at the York University Library for a month or so after my final essay hand in. Before that I had been on a few work shadowing days with the English Literature Subject Librarian at York.

I’m working in Academic Services, so on any given day I could be doing anything from shelving books to dealing with document delivery requests from law firms. As I get to grips with the ins and outs of librarianship, I’m learning a lot about the law and am finding it fascinating. My time in Oxford has been wonderful so far, and I’m really looking forward to what promises to be a challenging and fulfilling year ahead!

Anna Smith- Bodleian Law Library

Hi, my name is Anna and I am really enjoying being one of the two trainees in the Bodleian Law Library. After doing a degree in modern languages, I trained as a teacher of English as a foreign language in France and worked there for three years, mainly in secondary schools. Being new to library work and having no experience in law, it has been really interesting for me to see how things work from the inside and to find out how differently law libraries are organised to any that I have used before. I am looking forward to learning more over the rest of the year and am very pleased to have the opportunity to do so in Oxford, especially since there are so many different libraries that you can have a peek at.

Laura Williams, Bodleian Law Library

LauraHello, I’m one of two trainees working at the Bodleian Law Library. I have just graduated from the University of Warwick with a BA in Theatre and Performance Studies and have never worked in a library before.  My interest in this career path stems from the time spent in various libraries doing research for my degree.  I was able to spend time at specialist theatre libraries and archives, which resulted in an interest in working as a librarian rather than using libraries an academic!

The Bodleian Law Library is used by a wide range of people, not just Oxford students but also law firms and legal researchers, thus the job will offer contact with many different people and a variety of enquiries to help with.  My role within the library mainly centres on the Academic Services team which means lots of interaction with library users, something that I’m particularly looking forward to.